Weddings on top of the world
Creating a more perfect union during the pandemic
Friluftsliv involves an experience of nature, outdoorsy activities, preferably hiking on a mountaintop or in a slightly remote place—and now a popular Norwegian way to get married.
Some people dream of a romantic wedding under the northern lights, surrounded by reindeer at the North Cape with the glow of the midnight sun, alongside a fjord, up in the mountains, or perhaps a Norwegian old-fashioned [peasant] wedding wearing a bunad. Most choices will look incredible on camera—even if the wind blows chilly snowflakes and colors everyone’s cheeks red.
“It may be a walk in the forest, a hike up a mountain, or a fishing trip,” explains Ann Kristin Nissen, wedding planner at Brudepikene.no (The Bridesmaids), located in Drammen, 25 miles west of the Oslo Fjord. And as soon as the coronavirus situation is under control, it will be possible to plan your destination wedding in Norway again. She is excited.
“For a long time, it has been a trend to get married outdoors, but now it is more popular than ever. COVID-19 has led many to think differently and choose a smaller wedding than they originally envisioned. So now, the bride and groom pack up the wedding dress in a sack and hike up to a mountaintop to get married—only the bride and groom. It is like getting married in the middle of a postcard,” she says.
Nissen explains friluftsliv as eating fish over a bonfire after having caught it, or bringing along a matpakke, with a minimalist style of open-faced sandwich that is eaten every day by most Norwegians. By definition, friluftsliv is a simple standard, maybe sleeping in a tent or a cottage or cuddling down in a sleeping bag.
“The fact that you can combine outdoor life and a wedding is fantastic. And then you can ‘glam’ it up a bit and bring a wedding cake, champagne, and maybe even go glamping,” says Nissen, and “lately, quite luxurious tree huts and tents, like the Sámi lavvo (a traditional tent of the Sámi people) have become increasingly popular.
“Norway has a lot of magnificent and unspoiled natural landscapes with steep mountains and deep fjords, which makes for a perfect ‘friluftsliv wedding.’ If you go a little beyond the main tourist traps, you can find an idyllic place, where you are completely on your own. And it does not always have to be that far away to get there on foot. I think this is something that attracts those who want an outdoor wedding in Norway,” she says.
It is hard for Nissen to pick a favorite wedding, but she confirms that only your imagination alone sets the limit. “We can arrange weddings at the North Cape or in the middle of the night, in the midnight sun, or during the winter to see the northern lights. The sky is the limit,” she says.
Wedding at 71 degrees north
In the first episode of the TV-series “Under the Midnight Sun” in 2020, Julie Tande Liabø and Rune Sortvik got married at the North Cape plateau. They arrived there in their motor home with two friends.
“It’s a bit unreal … standing there so late at night and feeling like it is early afternoon,” Julie said to NRK.
The sound of a saxophone accompanied her and Rune’s son up the aisle. The musician was Tore Fosse, who runs the local cultural house, Perleporten (Pearly Gate) with his wife Birgit Lähdesmäki Johansen. The bride loved it.
“Standing on the plateau and feeling Mother Earth around us is quite OK,” she said in the television program.
And the strong winds did not postpone the ceremony performed by the local parish priest, Onar Haugli.
The bride then revealed her secret.
“I wore long underwear in white wool under the white wedding skirt,” said Julie.
The groom also wore his long underwear.
The North Cape parish confirmed that it is always possible for tourists, both Norwegian and foreign, to get married in their churches. There is a small church room, St. John’s Chapel, at the North Cape plateau. Here the bride and groom must agree that only liturgies approved for use by the Church of Norway are used.
Other possible places for weddings are in the church foyer or outdoors, on the North Cape Plateau by Globusen, the gigantic iconic globe sculpture that marks the North Cape.
Outdoor marriage is a practice that started a few years ago. Previously, it was only possible to enter into marriage at a consecrated place. And since the Church of Norway legalized gender-neutral marriage in 2009, the Parish of the North Cape also welcomes same-sex marriages. Anne-May Grasaas, dean of the Church of Norway, explains that the church facilitates things the best they can within certain parameters.
“The ministers primarily want to perform wedding ceremonies in the churches but follow the wishes of the bride and groom to the best of their ability as to where the wedding will be held. The local parish minister must still approve the location. It often happens that the bride and groom get a priest they know or one from the local area to have the ceremony they want. The liturgy for the Norwegian Church must still be used, and there are some rules for outdoor weddings that they must follow,” says Grasaas.
Whether one wants a civil marriage, a humanist wedding, or a church marriage, the couple must have an approved certificate of no impediment to their marriage.
Brudepikene.no seldom arrange weddings with a minister. The reason is that the couple would need permission from a dean of the Church of Norway.
“When we arrange a wedding, it is often a civil ceremony or through an organization that is permitted to wed couples, such as a humanist organization. Or we may arrange a symbolic ceremony, for those who marry at home first, says “bridesmaid” Ann Kristin.
Marriage during the pandemic
“During the pandemic, the North Cape plateau follows all restrictions and recommendations, including antibacterial stations, distance markers, and regular cleaning and disinfection,” says Sten Marvin Olsen, director of operations.
Speculation that the pandemic will lead to more separations and divorces has not been confirmed by official statistics; in fact, the numbers show the opposite. On the other hand, the number of marriages decreased by 22% in the period March to October 2020, compared to the same time period in 2019.
“So far, we cannot see any specific corona effect in the figures for separations,” says Ane Margrete Tømmerås at Statistics Norway.
In Norway, you must be separated for one year before you can apply for a divorce. This means that married couples who want to divorce in 2020 will be part of the divorce statistics in 2021 at the earliest. A potential change in marital status will thus first appear in the figures for separations, not divorces.
Nissen from Brudepikene.no is positive that Norwegians will continue to get married as they look for more creative ways to exchange their vows. What was the most unusual experience she has had with clothing for an outdoor wedding?
“Most couples wear a traditional wedding dress and suit, but during winter weddings, the bride often wears thick winter boots. Perfect for a rustic wedding in the open air. We have also arranged a wedding where one of the brides wore a man’s suit. And we, the wedding planners, often wear bunads during our weddings,” she says.
Whatever the chosen attire, a friluftsliv wedding in Norway is bound to be a memorable experience. A wedding trend perfect for the pandemic, it can be enjoyed in any beautiful outdoor setting anywhere as you celebrate your heritage and your special day.
To learn more about Brudepikene and booking a destination wedding in Norway, visit: www.weddingnorway.com.
If you would like to book a wedding at the North Cape on your own, start by contacting Scandic Nordkapphallen: www.travel-finnmark.no/nordkapp-sankt-johannes-kapel
This article originally appeared in the March 12, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.